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Tailsteak

I suppose it will betray my age if I mention where and when and how I first heard of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

It was still fairly early in my first semester at Fanshawe College, a Tuesday. I didn't know anyone enough to make conversation, and I wasn't in the habit of checking the news between classes - I had overheard people talking about something important in the hallways, but it wasn't until the bus ride home in the afternoon that I got any details.

You have to remember, in that moment, only a few hours after the attacks occurred, we didn't have all the information yet. All I heard from the strangers around me was gossip and conjecture and panic. Were there two attacks, or four, or six? Were the planes loaded with bombs? Was the White House one of the targets? Was Russia responsible, or China, or the Palestinians?

Would there be more tomorrow?

I had been too young for Cold War era nuclear paranoia - the Soviet Union broke up when I was nine - so this was the first time I had ever felt that international politics were big enough and close enough to affect me. Would whatever-this-was escalate into World War Three? Would Canada be attacked? Would I be drafted? Was my family in danger? Was I going to die?

I went home, downloaded the song "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M. off of LimeWire, and just sat and listened to it on repeat for what must have been hours. At the time, the interpretation of the song that Jamie gleans in this strip had not yet occurred to me.

One of my favourite mashups - indeed, one of my favourite songs of all time - is "Space Monkey Mafia" by Neil Cicierega, from his incredible album "Mouth Silence".

A truly great mashup not only combines two or more songs, but recontextualizes them, creating new meaning. Cicierega's pairing of "As We Know It" with Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" does just that. Any remixer might have recognized that these songs are superficially similar - male vocalists delivering long, rambly verses interspersed with simple choruses - but it took genius to realize that these two songs are, in fact, the same song, two sides of the same coin: the storyteller faithfully recounting world history and the dreamer prophesying an unknowable future.

And, again, a normal remixer might have combined the lyrics of one song with the melody of the other - perhaps switching places at the chorus - but it took genius to decide to play both singers at the same time, two rapid-fire vocalists shouting over each other in a distinctively unmistakable yet completely unintelligible mess.

A normal remixer might have been satisfied with that, but Cicierega then brings in his own frantic, demented, video-game-carousel keyboards, as Billy Joel gets caught repeating himself like a broken record and Michael Stipe emotes wordlessly, the clash of past and future accelerating past the listener and catapulting out into space. Despite the complete illegibility of the song, I always feel energized whenever I listen to it. By the time I get to the end of the 3:49 run time, I feel like I've just chugged a pot of coffee and I've been jumping up and down the entire time. The certain uncertainty of change isn't a reason to feel glum and depressed - it's a reason to get excited.

We didn't start the fire, it's the end of the world as we know it. It was always burning since the world's been turning, and I feel fine.

I feel fine.

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0750-------------------------------------
(Saturday afternoon, EXT: EB's car, heavy rain)

JH: Well, supposedly there's a truck coming, though they said it'd be a while. They're a bit backed up. And just in time, too, I've apparently lost service.
EB: Yeah, I've got no bars either. I guess a cell tower near us must have gone down.
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JH: No one on the road, no radio... everyone else on Earth could have spontaneously dropped dead just now, civilization could be in flames, and we would have no way of knowing.
EB: I guess that's true. We cannot, in this moment, prove that that scenario is not taking place.
JH: The last two people alive on the planet.
EB: It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.
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JH: You do?
EB: It's a song, by R.E.M. It's very stream-of-consciousness, I think you'd like it. It always reminds me of the book of Revelation. And that's the chorus: it's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.
JH: Mm. I guess that's a statement that's always true. It is always the end of the world as we know it, the world is always changing to something that we don't know. Everyone doesn't have to drop dead for that to be true.
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EB: And yeah, you know what, I do feel fine.
JH: Really?
EB: I do. My car's busted, the weather's terrible, there's nothing we can do right now but wait for help that might not come... and I feel fine. I've got a good apocalypse partner.
JH: Yeah. Yeah, me too.




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